Learn to Grow Fruit at Home
It is a wonderful, healthy, and satisfying experience, to be able to pick and eat fruit from your own garden. This course aims to expand your capacity to do just that!
Learn how to:
- Grow fresh fruit, berries and nuts efficiently and economically.
- Choose the best fruits for your situation.
- Raise soil fertility.
- Control pests and diseases naturally without using
Both cool and warm climate fruits are covered, and throughout the course
you are given the option to focus your study on the types of fruits you
are most interested in.
There are 6 lessons in this course:
An overview of the different types of fruits & nuts:
Soils, site preparation & planning.
Understanding soil nutrition
Fertilising fruit & nut plants
Managing soil for your fruit & nut plants
General Cultural Practices
Learning about fruit trees to produce more & better fruit
Identifying pests and diseases
Problem solving issues with fruit trees
Fruit trees ideal for your area
Nuts and Vines
How to grow in selected areas
Description of different nut trees and various vines
Ideal areas for growing berries
Timeline for growing berries
Conditions for growing berries
Each lesson culminates in an assignment which is submitted to the school, marked by the school's tutors and returned to you with any relevant suggestions, comments, and if necessary, extra reading.
What You Will Do
Select part of a home garden where the owner would like to grow fruit. Consider the good and bad points about the site and the suitability of different types of fruits to the situation.
Take a sample of soil from an area you might consider growing fruit in. Using the method set out in the gardening manual provided with the course, name the soil.
Look at the buds on the wood of three different species of fruit. Draw what you see, and label where you think the buds are fruit buds, and where you think they are vegetative buds.
Observe the way in which fruit trees are trained or pruned in your locality.
Visit a local store, nursery or irrigation shop and look at drip and micro irrigation equipment which is for sale. Take note of the various components of these systems, how they fit together and how they work.
Identify pests and diseases in a garden which you have visited.
Select different fruits from those you have read about which are grown in your area. For each one, research which varieties of that fruit are commonly grown, and why they are grown.
Plan the development of a berry growing area for a backyard. Contact companies, visit nurseries and check the availability, quality and prices of berry plants you would like to grow on your site (or proposed site). Work with an imaginary site if you do not have a real life situation to deal with.
Contact an Agriculture office or service (in person or over the internet), to find information you can, within reason (eg: leaflets, booklets, details about advisory services etc) which relate to fruit growing.
HOW THEN DO YOU DECIDE WHAT TO GROW?
It is difficult to go wrong provided you do the following:
You must have or develop the skills required.
Check and be sure that you can grow each particular
crop cheaper than what you might buy the product for. BEWARE, even
though it may seem ridiculous, it is often possible to buy something for
less than it might cost you to grow it.
Consider the need of alternative crops under consideration and select ones you need most or use most.
Consider the crop's keeping quality. Crops which
keep for short periods only (e.g. Peaches) are more of a risk than ones
which keep well (e.g. almonds).
Consider the relationship between cost outlay &
return. Some crops require large capital outlay before any return can be
obtained (e.g. walnuts - property and labour etc. can be tied up for up
to 10 years before reasonable crops start to be obtained from the
How suitable is that crop to the soil & climate of your area.
Consider your own experience & technical ability
in relation to the ease of production of the particular crop being
considered. Some crops are very difficult to grow; others are easy. If
you are inexperienced, start with the easy ones.
Consider the time the crop takes to mature and
length of production of the particular crop considered (e.g. paw paws
can be harvested 6-9 months after planting, but apples take several
What are your existing resources (e.g. manpower, tools, area available, money etc) and what crops are these resources suited to.
DECIDING WHAT CITRUS TO GROW
You can grow citrus in any part of Australia; but what you grow and how you grow it will vary from place to place.
- Heat is a prerequisite for ripening most citrus fruits. In Australia, there is sufficient heat in most places at some time of the year to ripen at least some types of citrus.
- Wind reduces growth, particularly when the soil is dry.
- All citrus are sensitive to frost; but some more than others.
- Most prefer a mild temperate climate with little or no frost.
- Drainage must be good. They don’t like to be waterlogged at all. Plant on a mound if necessary to increase drainage.
- Light is important. A little shade is OK, but health and cropping are affected by medium to heavy shade.
WHAT CITRUS TO GROW WHERE
Colder Sites (e.g. Southern Victoria & Tasmania)
Cumquat is the hardiest. Others for these areas include Mandarin, Meyer Lemon and Seville Orange. Other lemons are grown in Melbourne but can be damaged by frost if you are not careful. These varieties are the most cold-hardy.
Milder Sites (e.g. protected positions in Melbourne, otherwise warmer climates)
Grapefruit, Sweet Orange and Pumelo. These are moderately frost sensitive.
Warmer Sites (e.g. Coastal Queensland)
Limes, citrons and some lemons. These are very susceptible to frost.
Problems to Avoid:
- Citrus don’t like their roots being disturbed, so don’t dig around them
- Many grow well as a tub plant or topiary. You can prune the top growth freely into any desired shape or size. (Pruning is not essential though.)
- They develop collar rot easily if the base of the trunk is damaged or covered by mulch or soil.
- They commonly suffer iron deficiency. Iron deficiency shows in the tip growths becoming yellow rather than pale green. Spread some rusty nails around the base, or feed with Iron Chelates to avoid this.
DO I REALLY NEED A GRAFTED TREE?
Grafted trees are more expensive than cutting grown one: but they have many advantages, generally being more vigorous and resistant to a variety of problems. You are advised to pay the extra and reap the benefits.
WASHINGTON NAVEL ORANGE
Very popular variety. Ripens in winter, slightly rough skin, easy to peel; seedless flesh.
Produces fruit in summer through autumn, as late as April. Normally smooth skin, sweet flesh but contains seeds. Tends to bear heavy one year, and light the next.
Flesh is not so sweet, more commonly used for making marmalade.
A small fruit, bitter to eat, but useful in preserves or candied. It flowers later than other citrus and grows better in colder climates than many other citrus.
Better adapted to cooler localities than Eureka, but only has a small summer crop. Has a smoother skin than Eureka, but trees are very thorny when mature.
Does not have thorns and fruit are almost seedless. Bears fruit most of the year but skin is rough. Fruit tastes almost identical to Eureka. Needs a mild climate; grows better in coastal areas or the sub tropics.
Can taste like a cross between a lemon and orange; less acidic than other lemons. Has one crop a year which ripens early, but will hold on the tree for months until you want to pick it.
There are several varieties, ripening late autumn through to early spring. Fruit tastes best when grown in areas with warm days over winter – without sufficient warmth over winter, taste is simply not as good. Mandarins tolerate heat well and are ideal in northern or inland Australia.
While they will grow in most mild climates, they tend to be more suited to inland than coastal areas. Depending on the variety, fruit matures winter or spring.
MARSH SEEDLESS GRAPEFRUIT
Almost seedless fruit maturing mid to late autumn.
A seedling that originated at Kurrajong in New South Wales. It is a tall, vigorous tree, fruits extremely heavy one year and light the next.(Heavy crops should be thinned while fruit are small.)
Grow best in tropics and sub tropics. May grow in frost-free areas of temperate zones. Light frosts of -2 degrees C will cause extensive damage.
West Indian Lime can be thorny, grown mostly in the tropics. Let the fruit fall (it is only mature when it falls) and harvest from the ground.
Tahitian Limes are a little more cold tolerant than West Indian Limes. They can even been grown successfully in Victoria in a frost-free position (but the lifespan is shorter).
Benefits of Studying This Course
- Become proficient in growing a range of fruits, nuts, and berries.
- Learn in different ways – online study, practical tasks, watching video.
- Be guided by professional tutors on your learning journey.
- Feel confident that what you learn is current best practice.
- Become more self-sufficient and spend less on groceries.
- Lead a healthier lifestyle.
Taking Things Further
Growing fruit at home doesn’t have to stop with growing your own produce. It can be the beginning of a new enterprise or a new career.
- Become a market gardener
- Sell at local farmers markets
- Specialise in unusual or out of season produce
- Do some follow-up study
- Join a fruit-growing society
- Work in horticulture – orchards, plantations, fruit farms